The 41st Telluride Film Festival, which has become a harbinger of heavyweight Oscar contenders over the past few years, has announced its schedule for the fest – which opens Friday and runs through Labor Day — just as a charter planeload of industry festgoers departs LAX. Despite a well-publicized battle with the upcoming Toronto Film Festival over Oscar-buzzed movies, Telluride honchos Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger have some pretty impressive contenders in the mix. Of course, film-freak paradise that it is, Telluride is not all about hot awards titles but a mix of programming that always whets the appetite of movie lovers who flock here each Labor Day weekend.
That said, Oscar watchers will be eagerly lining up for Fox Searchlight and New Regency’s Birdman, which is coming directly from its opening-night slot at the Venice Film Festival where it received rapturous reviews — not only for star Michael Keaton and the cast but also director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki. Although Telluride is not about claiming these kinds of things, Birdman is getting its North American premiere in the Rockies.
Searchlight, also throwing its customary late Saturday night party here, is also bringing in the anticipated December release Wild for a World Premiere. Star Reese Witherspoon is heavily buzzed for a shot at a second Best Actress Oscar in this tale set in the great outdoors, a key reason a Telluride premiere was a natural. Unlike Birdman — which will skip Toronto for a closing-night New York Film Fest slot (a natural since it is set in the theatrical world of NYC) — Wild will also play TIFF.
The Weinstein Company is using Telluride to unveil their period drama The Imitation Game starring another pair of strong acting contenders this year, newly minted Emmy winner Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The distributor has hit Telluride in the past with eventual Best Picture winners The King’s Speech and The Artist, so it is obviously hoping the Colorado luck continues after having almost no profile at this fest last year. Weinstein publicly admitted they took some films to TIFF instead that just weren’t ready (Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom being one), and the intense media exposure hurt the film’s profile. But Imitation Game will also be playing TIFF after the first weekend (Toronto has stated only World Premieres get slots in the coveted first four days of the festival).
Also highly anticipated in today’s announcement is Rosewater, the directorial debut of The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart from Open Road Films. Longtime Telluride supporter Sony Pictures Classics will be back in force and didn’t really have to worry about the fight between Telluride and Toronto since they are bringing a boatload of movies that actually had their World Premiere in Cannes — most notably including Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher and Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner as well. Another Cannes alum on the list is Roadside Attractions’ Tommy Lee Jones pic The Homesman, which is fitting since Telluride is doing a tribute to its star Hilary Swank.
More than 50 movies will unspool in Telluride, but several that pundits have been hoping just might show will not be coming. That list includes Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, the Brad Pitt-starring World War II drama Fury and, most surprisingly, director Werner Herzog’s latest Queen Of The Desert. Herzog, which now has one of the festival’s marquee venues named in his honor, is an annual visitor to the fest and almost always brings along his latest work. I am told that although he wanted to bring Queen, which is said to contain a great Nicole Kidman performance, it simply is not ready and its producers didn’t want to unveil it in an unfinished form. It might even not be released this year but instead held for a debut at Berlin or Cannes. So Herzog may be in Telluride, but not his movie this time.
Of course other hotly anticipated titles like David Fincher’s Gone Girl and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice are already known to be skipping Venice, Telluride and Toronto entirely in favor of World Premiere slots at the New York Film Festival. So don’t expect either one to turn up in one of those unannounced Sneak Preview slots Telluride likes to tease us with. I will be here all weekend reporting on the lineup.
Here is today’s announcement of the full lineup:
· THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT (d. Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi, U.K.-U.S., 2014)
· ’71 (d. Yann Demange, U.K., 2014)
· 99 HOMES (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2014)
· BIRDMAN (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu, U.S., 2014)
· DANCING ARABS (d. Eran Riklis, Israel-Germany-France, 2014)
· THE DECENT ONE (d. Vanessa Lapa, Australia-Israel-Germany, 2014)
· DIPLOMACY (d. Volker Schlöndorff, France-Germany, 2014)
· FOXCATCHER (d. Bennett Miller, U.S., 2014)
· THE GATE (d. Régis Wargnier, France-Belgium-Cambodia, 2014)
· THE HOMESMAN (d. Tommy Lee Jones, U.S., 2014)
· THE IMITATION GAME (d. Morten Tyldum, U.K.-U.S., 2014)
· LEVIATHAN (d. Andrey Zvgagintsev, Russia, 2014)
· THE LOOK OF SILENCE (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark-Indonesia-Norway-Finalnd-U.S., 2014)
· MADAME BOVARY (d. Sophie Barthes, U.K.-Belgium, 2014)
· MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (d. Robert Kenner, U.S., 2014)
· MOMMY (d. Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2014)
· MR. TURNER (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2014)
· THE PRICE OF FAME (d. Xavier Beauvois, France, 2014)
· RED ARMY (d. Gabe Polsky, U.S.-Russia, 2014)
· ROSEWATER (d. Jon Stewart, U.S., 2014)
· THE SALT OF THE EARTH (d. Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Brazil-Italy-France, 2014)
· TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER (d. Nick Broomfield, U.K.-U.S, 2014)
· TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (d. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium-Italy-France, 2014)
· WILD (d. Jean-Marc Valleé, U.S., 2014)
· WILD TALES (d. Damián Szifrón, Argentina-Spain, 2014)